Most of the following comes from Rabbi Rose’s article on hell and afterlife on myjewishlearning.com.
Jewish tradition contains a variety of opinions on the subjects of heaven and hell. While in traditional Jewish thought the subjects of heaven and hell were treated extensively, most modern Jewish thinkers have shied away from this topic, preferring to follow the biblical model, which focuses on life on earth. The rise of interest in mysticism in the last several decades has prompted a renewed discussion about the afterlife. Given the rich mythical descriptions of the afterlife in the classical Jewish tradition, we must ask how such imagery impacts our views of heaven and hell and the destiny of the human soul.
Do Jews believe in hell?
Judaism offers a range of views on the afterlife, including some parallels to the concepts of heaven and hell familiar to us from popular Western (i.e., Christian) teachings. The Bible treats the subject of death is inconsistently, though most often it suggests that physical death is the end of life. This is the case with such central figures as Abraham, Moses, and Miriam. There also several biblical references to a place called Sheol (cf. Numbers 30, 33). It is described as a region “dark and deep,” “the Pit,” and “the Land of Forgetfulness,” where human beings descend after death. The suggestion is that in the netherworld of Sheol, the deceased, although cut off from God and humankind, live on in some shadowy state of existence.
Do Jews believe in the afterlife?
The development of the concept of life after death is related to the development of eschatology (speculation about the “end of days”) in Judaism that began with the Israelite prophets (Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah) but changed significantly after the destruction of the First Temple in the year 70 CE. Rabbinic tradition came up with the idea that suffering in this world would elicit rewards in the world to come (although the nature of this world is open to discussion).